Surprise, Ariz – With the Texas Rangers starting rotation still in question, Tanner Scheppers is proving to be the answer. He was once in the battle to be the closer. But, with injuries and setbacks with the Rangers pitching staff, he is now on the short list to make the starting rotation. The Texas Rangers will open the season without two of their key starters Derek Holland and Matt Harrison. It seems very unlikely that Colby Lewis will be ready by Opening day. There are just 9 days left in spring training and manager Ron Washington is getting close to announcing his starting rotation and it appears that Tanner Scheppers will likely make that list.
Something is brewing: In yesterday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers game, Scheppers managed to pitch a very sharp game after a rocky start in the first. The first inning started off rough when Carlos Gomez and Ryan Braun both hit doubles. After Brauns’ RBI double, Jonathan Lucroy followed it with a RBI single to make the score 2-0 for the Brewers. Scheppers managed to get out of the inning on a double play ball hit by Khris Davis.
After a bad first inning, Scheppers remained confident and remained focused. He managed to retire the next 7 batters in a row before Lucroy got another base hit.
Tanner Scheppers probably would have exited the game in the 5 inning, but because he was very efficient with his pitches and kept his count low, Ron Washington kept him in the game until the end of the 6th inning. He was able to effectively use his fastball, which topped out around 94 MPH and mixed in several curveballs to keep batters off balance. When hitters did manager to get a piece of the ball, it resulted in a ground out.
After the game: Tanner Scheppers commented about his outing and his desire to be on the starting rotation.
He finished with 72 pitches/52 for strikes and only faced 22 of 18 possible batters. Over the 6 innings of work, he struck out 6 batters. To compare his strikeout totals, Yu Darvish has 8 for spring training over 3 games/12.2 innings. This doesn’t mean that Scheppers is better than Darvish, but does show that Scheppers had a very good day with his command.
Who’s in the Mix: Robbie Ross, Alexi Ogando, Colby Lewis and Tanner Scheppers are the who everyone is watching to make the starting rotation. Ogando is likely to make the rotation, while it seems Lewis might need some time in the minors working to get back his command and pitch count. That leaves a tough battle between Ross and Scheppers. The advantage Ross has over Scheppers is prior starting experience. Over 3 seasons in the minors Ross started 68 games and has a record of 26 and 20. Scheppers has the advantage of working with Joe Nathan last year. Nathan worked with Scheppers on preparing for the closer role. Even though he won’t close, the mental preparedness is required for both. It is possible for both Robbie Ross and Tanner Scheppers to make the starting rotation. Expect Washington to give Ross and Scheppers another chance to prove they have the right stuff this week. Ron Washington has lots of work to do, and it seems he has a lot of talent on his ball club. It will be exciting to see who will make the 25-man roster, the bullpen, starting rotation and lineup.
The Texas Rangers open the season at home on March 31 against the Philadelphia Phillies.